Brands Expand the Unexpected

Category : My Thoughts July 28, 2016

Everyone loves a good surprise … even those who say they don’t. We can all remember a time when we were pleasantly surprised by someone or something. It could’ve been anything from the time your mom came home with an unexpected puppy to the last time you received a bonus discount on a big purchase. No matter what it is, unexpected treats make people feel special and celebrated. For businesses, surprises can be used to create positive experiences and build rapport with customers.

There is a wide range of tactics that companies have used to surprise and delight their customers over the years, but often times the positive experience ends after the initial surprise. Digital platforms provide a way for real life experiences to live on and even gain new life with customers. We’re going to take a look at three companies that have surprised their customers in unique ways and how they have created online experiences around these occurrences to further grow their relationships with their customers.

1. REI’s #OptOutside

Last fall, REI took a unique approach and surprised their customers by announcing they would be closed for Black Friday. This was a very nontraditional approach for one of the biggest retail days of the year, but the company demonstrated their brand values while speaking to the lifestyle values of their customers and encouraged them to spend the day outside with their families. They made the announcement by launching a campaign for their customers to #OptOutside on Black Friday instead of spending the day shopping. This surprise showed customers something usually unexpected from a retailer. Their approach not only reached current REI loyalists, but the message expanded beyond their normal customer base, increasing co-op members by 7.3 percent.

REI's Black Friday promotion
REI promoted #OptOutside leading up to Black Friday in 2015.
REI's Black Friday homepage
As a part of #OptOutside, they blacked out their homepage on Black Friday.

REI created a microsite to highlight the goals for the campaign and show people how to continue the conversation. Not only does it include gorgeous landscape photography, but there is also a video introducing #OptOutside, a tool to help people find outdoor places near them they can visit and a place for them to share their own experiences. REI made a statement and then gave their customers a way to join them in their stance. By developing the hashtag and microsite, they’ve been able to maintain the stamina they gained from the publicity around their initial announcement. Furthermore, it bolstered their reputation as a nature-first company and inspired customers to join in their mission. The success of this campaign proved how digital experiences and conversations can support real world lifestyles and initiatives. REI has now announced that they’re going to “begin a series of conversations, events, actions and stories that explore what it means to truly opt outside and put the outdoors at the center of a life.”

REI's Black Friday microsite
Above is the microsite used to promote the campaign before and after Black Friday.


2. MasterCard’s Priceless Surprises

Ever since 1997, MasterCard has grown brand worth and increased revenue consistently with their “Priceless” campaign, but in 2014 they launched “Priceless Surprises.” This campaign started with MasterCard giving their cardholders spontaneous gifts. Their “priceless surprises” have allowed them to reach out directly to individual customers and connect with them on a more personal level, expressing a human side to the company.

MasterCard’s priceless surprises
MasterCard started #PricelessSurprises by giving cardholders exclusive concert tickets.

What started out as a way to surprise cardholders when they least expected it has since expanded to reach and include more customers. MasterCard developed a site where they share videos of the “Priceless Surprises” they have created, but the site also gives customers a way to join in too. The site displays captured user-generated #PricelessSurprises and includes a platform for cardholders to share surprises with friends and family. The site not only engages their original customer base with thoughtful gifts and experiences, but it leverages engaged fans to reach new potential customers. In the first year of the campaign, social engagement increased three times!

MasterCard’s user-generated content
MasterCard features user-generated content (UGC) on #PricelessSurprises.


3. Snapple’s Real Facts

Undoubtedly many people remember growing up with the Snapple facts. It was always a treat to get a Snapple instead of water or apple juice at lunch, and then there was the added bonus of a delightful and usually strange fact. The facts were generally quirky and down-to-earth, but over the years and especially with the growth of social media, some facts have been publicly proven to be fiction by customers. Snapple needed to respond.

Snapple bottlecaps with Real Facts
Snapple started surprising customers with “Real Facts” on packaging in 2002.

Rather than put an end to this delightful surprise, they amended their facts with a unique online experience. With their typical humor and whimsy, Snapple created the Snapple Retirement Club. This drew on the original intent to engage users with fun facts and created an effective response to social conversations that provided them with a larger reach and a new source of humor for their fans.

Retired Snapple Real Fact

Along with The Retirement Club, Snapple has provided a space where they can display visualizations, or “Re-enFACTments,” of their facts provided by real people. The creators range from illustrators, artists and musicians to toy makers and even chefs. Here, Snapple has taken their simple written facts and created new visual, shareable content that brings the Snapple brand and its personality to life. Snapple took a small, fun packaging surprise and made it into a well-rounded digital experience.

Snapple Re-enFACTment
Re-enFACTments were developed to further the experience of the “Real Facts.”


In Conclusion

Technology enables brands to turn positive surprises and real-life experiences into long-lasting engagements that inevitably make them stand out. Brands are learning that real-world offline experiences do indeed drive meaningful emotional connections with customers, but it shouldn’t end there. Creating digital spaces where customers can join and continue the conversation is key to creating long-term brand loyalists.

Reaching Users in a Multi-Device World

Category : My Thoughts July 28, 2016

We’ve all been there. You’re lying in bed unable to fall asleep, so you grab your phone to browse Facebook or Instagram. One thing leads to another — now you’re shopping for your nephew’s birthday gift, you add a few things to your shopping cart and, finally, you fall asleep with a happy heart and a full cart. The next morning, you realize that you never purchased the gift, but that’s okay because you wanted to do a little more research before pulling the trigger. So, you grab your laptop and do a little price comparison (maybe a little at home, a little at work, etc.) before you make the purchase. This scenario and ones like it are common digital practice among users today. A consumer survey revealed that 79 percent of people aged 18 to 64 are on three or more devices every day, even though we rarely think about it.

The Multi-Device User

Let’s take a look at what this trend means for various generations of users. While millennials do own the highest percentage of smartphones, they aren’t by any means exclusive smartphone users. More than half also use tablets and almost 75 percent use good ’ol computers. GenXers, on the other hand, lead as the biggest device switchers across smartphones, tablets and computers. And don’t forget about Baby Boomers — they’re rapidly catching up with the younger generations with over half of users ages 50 to 64 and one third of users 65+ also owning a smartphone in addition to other devices.

Percentage of device owners by age

Why do we all need so many devices? Convenience and availability are definitely factors that contribute to smartphone and tablet usage, but why haven’t we all ditched our desktops and laptops? The time a task takes affects our device preference, for instance, checking the weather compared to choosing an insurance plan. As the graph below shows, for complex tasks, users across generations still prefer desktop devices, and for quick and frequent tasks, there is a preference towards smartphones. We can’t settle on one option.

Device Preferences

Let’s look at how this plays out in a specific scenario. If we focus on online shopping habits, statistics show that 87 percent of smartphone and tablet owners in the US use their devices for shopping activities (browsing, price comparison, consumer research), but only 30 percent of all e‑commerce sales in 2015 came from mobile commerce. Checkouts often require a certain time commitment because of their multi-step complexity. As a result, nearly half of users regularly move between devices when shopping because their device choice depends on the complexity of the task at hand.

How To Market To Multi-Device Users

What does this mean for marketers? It means you can’t assume you know what device users will be on when they visit your site. It may be dictated by what’s available to them, their current location (on the train, at home on the couch, etc.) or their ideal device preference based on the task they’re trying to accomplish. Marketing publications have had many headlines over the last couple years about how much mobile matters. But mobile isn’t king and the desktop isn’t dead. Any strategy that involves focusing on the prominence of one type of device will fall short as technology changes. Bottom line: Users aren’t thinking about what device they’re on, they just want to experience fluidity in every task they aim to complete. They need to have the flexibility to move back and forth between devices seamlessly. So, instead of thinking in terms of devices, we need to think in terms of tasks and interactions to build successful sites that are truly device agnostic.

Implementing a responsive design is a great first step because it is based on a fluid grid that eliminates the need for separate mobile or desktop experiences. Responsive design allows marketers to focus on interactions and content prioritization to better cater to the unique needs of users and tasks rather than specific device limitations.

But responsive design isn’t the only step. When creating responsive designs, we are often narrowly focused on how the design looks on certain devices (mobile, desktop, etc.). We create experiences with maximum widths that, on a connected TV for example, have huge empty white margins that could be used if we had considered dimensions beyond “desktop”. To think bigger we have to think smaller. Think about your site as an ecosystem of information and interactions that work in limitless ways — a collection of all the things your user needs to complete whatever task they may have.

Users’ multi-device worlds are only getting more complicated. Don’t put your eggs all in one device basket, because no single device rules the roost. Instead, let’s think outside the basket altogether.